Choreographer: Jesús Carmona
Directors: Ferrán Carvajal and Jesús Carmona
The Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival is always a highlight of the summer season and an opportunity to see work that plays with the boundaries of an art form that is finding new contemporary interpretations with each season. Jesús Carmona has grasped that opportunity in his new show The Jump which takes a very pure male flamenco style and places it within a modern masculinity narrative that challenges the protagonist.
Staged in seven or eight phases of dance performance, The Jump is more or less a continuous piece divided into thematic chapters demarcated by costume and changes to the tempo that move the dance from traditional, deeply atmospheric solo flamenco to jauntier explosions of performance and more contemplative explorations of the interior doubts, worries and pressures placed on Carmona as he takes his place in the spotlight.
The effect of that as a complete show is mixed with intense and intricate patterns of movement performed alongside musical-inspired set pieces for Carmona and his six companions. Some of these investigate manly tropes, including the second number performed on chairs behind a metal curtain with the dancers dressed in suits and sunglasses evoking an 80s theatre version of Miami Vice or some similar LA-based cop show while later, the company don hockey pads covering their whole bodies. These male expectations – of physical strength and sporting prowess – set the scene for the remainder of the show.
Men in trench coats dance in patterns while Carmona hides beneath a table before balancing clown-like on its upturned underside. More men in harnesses cling to each other and are dragged or fall across the stage while Carmona yells in frustration. Little of this make sense; there are nods to surrealism and to absurdist styles and, while the emotional journey of the central character is clear, this style of this section is too affected to be affecting. This isn’t helped by a lack of real flamenco here and erratic lighting choices by Luis Perdiguero who seems to plunge the stage into shades of semi darkness almost at random.
Yet none of this detract from what are genuinely spectacular dance sequences and when you take away all of the dressing, there is nothing better than watching Carmona primarily but also his company riffing to José Valencia’s ululating vocal, as their heels tap and move at an extraordinary rate. The speed and precision ought to be completely at odds yet the control is superb with sudden stops, twists of the body and sculpted arm shaping that dominate the room as their bodies are completely captivated by and simultaneously control the rhythm.
Dancers Rubén Puertas, Borja Cortés, Joan Fenollar, Daniel Arencibia, José Viñas and Juan Bravo each have their solos, creating exciting group numbers that blend flamenco with contemporary dance and, surprisingly in the final piece, with ballet. There are sequences in The Jump that feel redundant and while there is a desire to create contemporary outlets for the form, it is still the traditional flamenco, a man beating out a rhythm with his shoes, which really leaves you breathless.
Runs until 29 June 2022